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Menlo Park father takes child's play seriously

Original post made on Feb 24, 2013

Mike Lanza, author of "Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play," will speak Monday, Feb. 25, on ways parents can promote neighborhood play and help kids develop into "active, meaningful adulthood" through playful childhoods.

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Comments (12)

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Posted by George
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:14 am

So, lets recap... Lanza lives in Menlo Park (even though it's "not their favorite"), writes books (by collecting "his research on play" via neighborhood kids invited to his house), and gives talks (to Palo Alto parents @ Cubberley) about how our kids don't have enough unscheduled time. Call me cynical, but I think Lanza is poorly attempting to building his career and sell books by lecturing to over-stressed, nostalgic parents about the simply joys of playing outside. Really? Is nothing sacred?

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Posted by Irony
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

After investing so much energy in finding an acceptable house in an ok (though not their favorite) neighborhood, the family now finds their idyllic existence threatened by almighty Stanford, planning to erect a massive gridlock-inducing mega-officeplex just down the street. Perla Ni is leading the charge.

The takeaway, boys and girls, is that you can't just assume you've achieved nirvana when you get your square of paradise in our city. You must remain ever-vigilant lest our city staff and council ruin it for you and thousands of others.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm


parents today are so wrapped up in their children's "future opportunities" that those children don't get to have lives of children. They are scheduled to death. When's the last time you heard a parent tell their child to "go out and play?" Play, unstructured play, is an important part of childrens' development. Unfortunately, with the hyper driven, helicopter parent world we live in, children today don't get to just "go out and play." Ultimatley it's because those same parents are worried that their children won't do well and by reflection that means that they, as parents, haven't "done well." It's all so narcisistic.

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Posted by tamygee
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Sometimes it's as simple as not having other kids on the block. My kids are outside all the time (and they have organized sports as well) but it's kind of a bummer that there aren't kids their own age for them to play with.

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Posted by Willows parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

My kids play outside or inside, with neighboring kids, all the time. My initial take was that Lanza was some kind of weirdo, but George might be closer to the mark. I wonder whether anyone who starts a post with "Parents today..." is actually currently a parent...

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Posted by AK
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I appreciate Mike's core message a lot--our kids *are* too overscheduled, and free play is a lost art for so many families. That said, after reading a number of his blog posts, I wish that he would acknowledge the many factors that go into selecting a place to live. Sometimes I get the sense from reading his posts that he thinks that parents who can't either a) create a magical children's paradise on their block or b) afford to move to a block where such a place exists are c) shorting their children critical life experiences. I'm not sure that's fair to the many families facing a tough economic climate, and it certainly fails to acknowledge the many complex factors going into a decision about housing. The ability to shop for a neighborhood as he and Perla did is rather luxurious.

Compared to many professionals with similar pedigrees (advanced degrees from prestigious universities in highly marketable subjects) we work less, making consequently less money, and we rent a small apartment in the heart of town. Values that this satisfies: more time with our kid. More time with our hobbies. Better cash flow, which enables us to pay for the experiences we cherish. A truly walkable/bikeable neighborhood, which means that we can get away with driving one car and averaging a tank of gas per month.

What we don't get: a playborhood. Our neighbors tend to be a rotating collection of grad students and young professionals with a handful of fixed income seniors thrown in. We get close to them, and then they move. Families with kids on our street tend to move away by the time the kids are preschool-aged, seeking bigger, more stable accommodations. I look longingly at the neighborhoods like Allied Arts, but am not willing to make the tough bargain (more work, less money, less time) to buy into such a place. Without a tremendous financial cushion, the math just doesn't add up.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm


do yo stop being a parent because your children are grown? Just saying....

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Posted by Willows Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm

MV: Yes, when your kids grow up, you stop being a parent of kids. Tell us more about what it was like in your day, and how we should raise our kids, gramps!

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 6:58 am


I can tell you this much, my son wasn't scheduled to death and was actually told to "go out and play." Didn't seem to harm him and he's doing fine. I am a grandfather so I do get a first hand view of parenting today. What I said previously stands.

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Posted by irony
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:54 am

MV, the Stanford project that you so earnestly support is going to turn Playborhood into Slayborhood, as cars go zipping through Allied Arts to get away from El Camino gridlock. So much for idyllic childhood -- it will be risky for everyone, from infants in strollers to great-great-grandparents in their walkers, to spend any time outdoors.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm


who said the kids had to play in the street?

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Posted by presentation
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm

i attended the presentation this past Monday night. Mr. Lanza was more interested in name-dropping that he employed the founder of Craigslist at one point and trying to get the audience to buy books from his 8 year old son (out on Monday night until 10 pm, mind you) than actually sharing anything worthwhile with the audience. It was not a great showing -- we were hoping for something more.

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